Happy Thanksgiving

I know you love a good story as much as I do.

But a good old-fashioned story?

All the better.


Anonymous artist in the style of Petrus van Schendel (1806-1870) via Wikimedia Commons

The yarn I want to share with you on this lovely Thanksgiving is a rare gem—after all, it’s a rarity to find a tale that is rich in the atmosphere and traditions of this cherished holiday. But, one glimpse at the author and you’ll know just what I mean …


Photo of Louisa May Alcott via Wikimedia Commons

Recognize her?

That’s right—Louis May Alcott (how thankful we are for her!) wrote a wonderful little account of the fictional Bassett family’s Thanksgiving in 19th century New Hampshire, aptly named, An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving.


Picture this …

“Thanksgiving morning is here, and the Bassett family’s cozy kitchen is filled with the hustle and bustle of the holiday. But this year something is different: Tilly, Prue, and their brothers and sisters have been left in charge of everything from the roasted turkey to the apple slump. They tie on their aprons and step into the kitchen, but are they really up for the challenge of cooking a Thanksgiving feast?” (Excerpted from the back cover of the children’s book adaptation beautifully illustrated by James Bernardin.)

Why are the children left to cook for themselves?

It’s a bit of a mix-up, really, but I don’t want to spoil the story for you. Suffice it to say, a neighbor brings word that Grandma Bassett isn’t feeling well, so Ma and Pa must rush off to her aid by horse-drawn sleigh, leaving the children to prepare for Thanksgiving on their own.

Mustering their best intentions, the children embark on a series of humorous mishaps—for instance, forgetting the sugar in the plum pudding and spicing the stuffing with wormwood and catnip. As if the story of seven children scrambling to prepare the feast isn’t entertaining enough, you are sure to swoon with nostalgia as you read Ms. Alcott’s romantic literary rendering of the simpler times we all long for today …

“The girls, after a short rest, set the table and made all ready to dish up the dinner when that exciting moment came. It was not at all the sort of table we see now, but would look very plain and countrified to us, with its green-handled knives, and two-pronged steel forks, its red-and-white china, and pewter platters, scoured until they shone, with mugs and spoons to match, and a brown jug for the cider. The cloth was coarse, but white as snow, and the little maids had seen the blue-eyed flax grow, out of which their mother wove the linen; they had watched and watched while it bleached in the green meadow. They had no napkins and little silver; but the best tankard and Ma’s few wedding spoons were set forth in state. Nuts and apples at the corners gave an air, and the place of honor was left in the middle for the oranges yet to come.”

Oranges, gladful guests, and a delightful meal all manifest before the happy ending of the story (if that’s a spoiler, I do apologize).

Tilly and Prue even manage to produce a perfect apple cobbler dessert, using the very recipe that is included at the end of the story: Louisa May Alcott’s Apple Slump.


Photo by Ralph Daily via Wikimedia Commons

You want the recipe, won’t you? Well, just visit the Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House website, where you can write down the recipe or order your own keepsake calligraphy copy for $2.50.

Now, let me send you off to read the story for yourself. There are several ways to enjoy An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving and make it a new annual tradition:

• Read the full story online (for free) at Ibiblio.org.
• Listen to the entire story (also for free) at Librivox.org.
• Order a copy of one of the illustrated children’s book adaptations from Amazon.com.

Oh, and, I also found a film based on the story (haven’t seen it yet). Take a peek at the trailer:

And, with that, I wish you a Thanksgiving full of joy, laughter, and delicious food shared with those you love.


Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy


Leave a comment 8 Comments

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Oh MaryJane, you just brought up one of my all time favorite little bookstore finds. Back in 1995, I had a week long training session in November for work in downtown Chicago, and one evening I went to the big book store on Michigan Ave and happened upon this little gem. I read it every Thanksgiving just for the beauty and fun it imparts each year. Unfortunately, my copy does not have many illustrations or the recipe at the end either. Thank-you for the trailer for a movie of this story. I must find a copy!

    Happy Thanksgiving MaryJane to you and your family! Finding MJF and joining so many other wonderful Farmgirls has brought be immeasurable blessings at every turn. May your day today be filled with many blessings and memories of love……..AND Apple Pie!

  2. Thank you MaryJane for sharing this sweet story for us at Thanksgiving. there is a copy of the film right “behind ” this clip but it has Spanish subtitles which detract from the story a bit. I will see if i can find it online through utube, as that is a source of many movies and such that you didn’t know were available.
    Well, I am about to start my dressing and turkey breast ( a whole turkey is just too much for one person and 3 cats). Yesterday I made a maple/pumpkin pie, which was just heavenly, the maple syrup intensifies in flavor and its sinfully rich. HAPPY THANKSGIVING MY FELLOW FARMGIRLS!!

  3. Cindi Johnson says:

    That is a lovely story and a nice extension to the holiday for me ~ too busy in the kitchen to be at the computer until now. What an excellent idea for a Christmas gift for my granddaughter – a voracious reader! She will love such excellent writing and I will love that she experiences such classics. Maybe my bookshelves are not sagging in the middle too much to add a classic or two as well.

  4. Laurie says:

    I’m a little behind in reading this, but I did see the movie. 🙂 It was on the other night on the Hallmark Movie Channel. It was a sweet movie. I did not know it was based on a book. I’ll have to find the book to read now. Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Laurie says:

      Forgot to mention, the movie is very different than the book and there is also a follow up movie (takes place 2 years later) called An Old Fashioned Christmas.

  5. Connie-Killarney says:

    I loved, loved this story!!

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